LAHORE :Â All the fancied teams, defending champion, PIA, Wapda and National Bank, fashioned out victories in the super league phase of the 63rd Zaitoon National hockey championship here on Wednesday at National hockey stadium.
PIA, rode on a hat trick by Sharjeel, worked hard to beat spirited Police 4-3, WAPDA trounced SNGPL 5-0 and NBP defeated never say die Railways 2-0.
Wapda scored a firm win against SNGPL, who are making their maiden appearance in the event. The first three goals were scored through penalty corners. SNGPL custodian had anticipated Aleem Bilalâ€™s flick off the first PC with his outstretched arm but the sheer force carried the ball into the net in the 11th minute.
In the 28th minute, legendary drag flicker Sohail Abbas, still sprightly at 40, flicked it left of goal keeper off the 4th PC.
Five minutes into the second half, it was again the turn of Aleem Bilal, who made it 3-0 with his second goal. This time he beat the goal keeper with a flat angular push on the 5th PC.
The final quarter saw two field goals. The other veteran Waseem netted from the close range after a good left side move. WAPDAâ€™s last goal was scored by little Asad Shabbir, who availed a rebound.
The defending champions PIA had to dig deep to edge past Police who appeared a tough opponent to beat.
Consequently, PIA had few shots in the open play despite a number of circle penetrations; all their goals came off penalty corners.
Police were unlucky to concede the first goal. In the 12th minute, off PIAâ€™s second PC, Irfan Srâ€™s weak push went in via the line stopperâ€™s stick.
In the 17th minute, policeâ€™s star forward Sharjeel scored the equaliser. He came from nowhere to flick a high ball into the goal.
Within two months, PIA regained ascendancy when burly Kahif Aliâ€™s push off the PC went beneath the custodianâ€™s body. Airlines led 2-1 at half time.
Second half followed the same script. PIA had more of the possession and earned PCs while police making lightening raids off and on.
Sharjeel again restored the parity off his teamâ€™s second PC. PIAâ€™s third PC goal came through Ehsanullah, whose deft push deceived the goal keeper.
Then Irfan had his second off the next PC through a variation. Kashif on the top of the circle, slipped the ball to Irfan standing close to him on the left side who pushed strongly into the roof of the net.
Two goals up with 13 minutes left, PIA continued to press forward.
But in the 51st minute, another long ball was well received by the irresistible Sharjeel who sounded the boards, completing a hat trick.
In the third match NBP took lead against Railways in the 2nd minute when Qadir availed a cross from the right side by sounding the boards.
It seemed the NBP with eight members of Pakistanâ€™s under 21 side would run over the very inexperienced Railways side proved it wrong by going all out in search of the equalizer with lively moves to cause panic for their opponents.
It got a bit tense in the early part of the second half and cards were flashed. NBPâ€™s captain Tauseeq was given marching orders for five minutes.
After wasting their first PC, the bankers doubled the lead in the 41st minute. Atiq Arshad finished a good move with a fine top of the circle reverse grounder.
The final quarter saw an intense battle with pole to pole game.
In the last minute, Railways Ahmad Nadeem, Pakistanâ€™s current under 18 international, in a flash of genius went past three defenders displaying excellent 3D skills but could not make a proper attempt on the goal.
Railways put up a gallant fight throughout. Though, the NBP had the better of the exchanges most of the time, Railways managed to dominate in some patches.